Published: 9/9/2022 6:58:29 PM
Modified: 9/9/2022 6:58:08 PM
AMHERST – Evan Fournier bided his time. The Belchertown product waited through youth and injuries to make his mark on the UMass men’s soccer team.
The senior has six points on two goals and two assists through four games, nearly eclipsing his career totals.
“I’ve been waiting for awhile now. I felt like my time was coming,” Fournier said. “To start the season off that way individually and then as a team, it’s felt amazing.”
The Minutemen (3-0-1) haven’t lost this season and are on a three-game winning streak ahead of Saturday’s 1 p.m. matchup with fellow unbeaten Boston University (2-0-2) at Rudd Field. UMass has outscored its last three opponents by three goals per game.
“That’s the most important part. I think if it came in games that we were losing it wouldn’t feel that great,” Fournier said. “The fact that we’re winning, we’re playing well as a team against good teams like (Boston College) is a great feeling overall. Even if I wasn’t scoring or assisting, that’d be a great feeling, but the fact that I’m doing that is just cherry on top.”
UMass has kept ahead of its opponents by being deliberate and lethal with its finishing. The Minutemen are tied for the nation’s lead converting 69.6 percent of their shots into goals. Their three goals per game are tied for 11th in the country.
“We’ve created more chances, and we’ve created more quality chances. We’ve finished a good percentage of the chances,” UMass coach Fran O’Leary said. “I think it’s a big credit to our front guys, but the foundation is always at the back. I think at the end of the day, to create a chance, you have to have the ball, and we’ve done a fantastic job so far winning the ball.”
Junior Alec Hughes has been one of the main beneficiaries. He leads UMass with three goals and has distributed two assists. His two points per game are tied for sixth nationally, while his eight total points are tied for 15th.
“I just try to put myself in the right spot. It makes it easier for people to play the ball. It’s beat your man and usually most of my finishes just come off one-touch finishes really close to the net,” Hughes said.
They’re facing a BU squad that has allowed just two goals all season, among the best 20 marks in the nation. The Terriers shut out Merrimack and then No. 9 New Hampshire.
“They’re obviously happy but it’s just a start. We’ve got to be able to sustain it,” O’Leary said. “We’re playing a team in BU that’s undefeated, very well coached, a lot of talent. So we’re gonna have our hands full.”
A full Rudd Field took some worry off their plate against Boston College the last time the Minutemen played at home. Roughly 1,800 fans encircled the field to cheer UMass to a 3-0 win over their ACC foe. The Minutemen hope they can muster a similar environment for the other school on Commonwealth Avenue.
“We were all a bit surprised when we saw that because we’ve never had anything like that here. Even when we were warming up, it felt like we were like, ‘what’s going on here?’ But it definitely has a huge impact,” Fournier said. “When you’re playing, you can hear them, you can sort of feel them, so you make a good play and you feel that support coming on. It definitely helps us a lot. And having those fans there is so crucial.”
Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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